Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zeid Hamdan and General Suleiman: The Authoritarianism of Fragile Egos (or vice versa)

Karl Sharro

Republished with permission from Karlremarks. Follow him also on twitter @Karlremarks.

Message from Zeid Hamdan in prison: 'Dear friends, I am now in the prison of the police station of the palace of justice in Beirut because of my song "General Soleiman". They are prosecuting me for defammation of President Soleiman. I dont know, until when I am staying in prison. Please mobilize!'

The Lebanese musician Zeid Hamdan, recently back from participating in the Shubbak Festival in London, sent this message from his detention cell in Beirut earlier today. Shubbak was intended as a 'window on contemporary Arab culture', the bitter irony is that this incident has now given an all too realistic view of the contemporary culture of repression and arbitrary use of power in Lebanon. The song in question, General Suleiman, is a light-hearted reggae number that has has provoked the humourless authorities to go after Zeid Hamdan, in all likelihood for the 'offence' of demeaning the position of the President of the Republic. This archaic residue of the French mandate period has often been used by the authorities to clamp down on the freedom of expression.

Last year I reviewed General Suleiman, and I may have been too harsh on the borrowed imagery in the video clip and the soft satire it employed. Zeid explained at the time that the idea for the song came out of the political frustrations of the power vacuum that the country experienced, and how he saw the election of General Suleiman as a positive step. The song is in fact is a plea for change, for stability, for normalcy. As a result of the authorities' incompetence, lack of humour and heavy-handedness, perhaps it will now spark a genuine drive for change. The reaction to the detention has been swift, the news travelled very quickly and protest will hopefully follow very soon.

While it's tempting to defend Zeid on the basis that the song isn't actually offensive, I think this is the wrong approach. What we need to defend here is the freedom of expression, without qualifications, and push for abolishing the archaic laws that provide the legal basis for such arrests. No politician or public figure should be beyond critique, and they shouldn't be allowed to use those laws in a desperate bid to gain the respect that their political record hasn't gained them. The role of art and music isn't to flatter the fragile egos of insecure public figures. Let's say a resolute no to these forms of intellectual intimidation and fight for our freedom to offend the clique of fools that is ruling us.

Join the Free Zeid page on facebook.


Anonymous said...

Democracy is hypocrisy, men legislating out of their own wimps and desire, and since men are not perfect it automatically leads to tyranny, just like what we have now in our country. the USA is actually and oligarchy ruled by few elite wealthy banker families the rest is sheep, every four years they put a show call election for entertainment so people can think they really have a choice and can make a difference. while in reality their choice is between A and B with the rest of the alphabet out of the picture. Allah the creator of mankind send manual for humans to live by, the divine sharia law, but we humans don't know what is good for us and we run after the glitter shinny things thinking it's the solution, while the trickery iblees and human wolf experts of human mass psychology manipulate us the way they please. wake up Egypt, go for sharia.

Arab Democracy said...

Interesting argument but disconnected conclusion. sharia law will still require human interpretation and implementation. Any idea, whether supposedly divine in origin or not will be perverted by the reality of human nature.

What I find very disappointing among many Islamists is this inability to truly debate others, often assuming that the religious dogma they preach is beyond reproach. A sad state of affairs when intra islamic conflict is the norm rather than tbe exception.

This is only a flavour of things to come in Egypt.

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